Fri, 31 Mar 2023

Bears roster boasts core of young talent

Chicago Bears
29 Jan 2023, 00:37 GMT+10

Larry Mayer

The foundation that Bears general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus built in their first season together is fueled by a core of promising young players.

The group consists of 20 key contributors who are all 25 or younger in all three phases (listed alphabetically):

OffenseLarry Borom

#75 OL

Height: 6-5Weight: 333 lbsCollege: Missouri

Age: 23

The 2021 fifth-round pick from Missouri started the first seven games of the season at right tackle before sustaining a concussion. He returned later in the year in a reserve role before opening two of the final three contests - at right tackle in Week 16 against the Bills and right guard in Week 18 versus the Vikings. In 2023, Borom likely will compete for a starting job and provide depth up front.

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#10 WR

Height: 6-4Weight: 238 lbsCollege: Notre Dame

Age: 24

Acquired by the Bears in a trade with the Steelers Nov. 1, Claypool caught 14 passes for 140 yards in seven games. He's eager to spend the offseason continuing to build a rapport with quarterback Justin Fields and gain an even firmer grasp of the offense. The 6-4, 238-pounder boasts a prototype combination of size and speed and possesses big-play ability, especially on 50/50 balls.

Justin Fields

#1 QB

Height: 6-3Weight: 228 lbsCollege: Ohio State

Age: 23

The 2021 first-round pick blossomed into a dynamic dual-threat in 2022, setting NFL records for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season (1,143) and a game (178) while also making big strides as a passer. Blessed with excellent speed, arm strength, elusiveness and leadership skills, Fields figures to only improve as he enters his second year under coordinator Luke Getsy.

Khalil Herbert

#24 RB

Height: 5-9Weight: 212 lbsCollege: Virginia Tech

Age: 24

The 2021 sixth-round selection picked up where he left off as a rookie, demonstrating his elusiveness and ability to break tackles. Despite missing four games with an injury, Herbert rushed for 731 yards and four touchdowns on 129 carries with a long run of 64 yards. He also averaged 29.2 yards on five kickoff returns with a long of 50 yards.

Teven Jenkins

#76 OL

Height: 6-6Weight: 321 lbsCollege: Oklahoma State

Age: 24

The 2021 second-round pick missed the first week of training camp with an injury, was the subject of trade rumors and then lined up as the third-team right tackle upon returning to practice. But Jenkins moved to right guard midway through camp and flourished there, playing in 13 games with 11 starts at his new position, though he missed four contests with a neck injury.

Braxton Jones

#70 OL

Height: 6-5Weight: 310 lbsCollege: Southern Utah State

Age: 23

The 2022 fifth-round pick joined the No. 1 offense at left tackle during OTAs the first week of June and never relinquished the position. Jones not only started all 17 games as a rookie but was the only Bears player who played every snap in 2022. The 6-5, 310-pounder has said on multiple occasions that he plans to spend the offseason getting stronger in the weight room to help improve against bull rushes.

Velus Jones Jr.

#12 WR

Height: 6-0Weight: 200 lbsCollege: Tennessee

Age: 25

The 2022 third-round choice demonstrated resiliency, rebounding from two muffed punts early in the season to show his versatility and big-play ability. Jones had a 44-yard reception and a 40-yard kickoff return in a Week 16 game against the Bills. In the season finale versus the Vikings, he became the first Bears player since Walter Payton with a run, reception and kickoff return of at least 25 yards in the same game.

Cole Kmet

#85 TE

Height: 6-6Weight: 260 lbsCollege: Notre Dame

Age: 23

The 2020 second-round pick emerged as a key playmaker, leading the Bears in all receiving categories with 50 catches, 544 yards and seven touchdowns. Five of Kmet's TDs came in a three-game span during the middle of the season against the Cowboys, Dolphins and Lions. He also made major strides as a blocker, helping the Bears lead the NFL in rushing for the first time since 1986.

Alex Leatherwood

#72 OL

Height: 6-5Weight: 312 lbsCollege: Alabama

Age: 24

The Bears are hoping that Leatherwood provides competition and depth in training camp after spending a full offseason with the team. After being claimed off waivers from the Raiders Aug. 31, he appeared in four games in 2022, playing 32 snaps on offense and 11 on special teams. Leatherwood was selected by Las Vegas with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2021 draft and started all 17 games as a rookie.

Darnell Mooney

#11 WR

Height: 5-11Weight: 173 lbsCollege: Tulane

Age: 25

The 2020 fifth-round pick continued to shine in his third year with the Bears before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in a Week 13 road loss to the Jets. Mooney started all 12 games he played, catching 40 passes for 493 yards and two TDs. A selfless player who is also a willing blocker, Mooney once again will be counted on to be a significant contributor in 2023.

DefenseJaquan Brisker

#9 DB

Height: 6-1Weight: 200 lbsCollege: Penn State

Age: 23

The 2022 second-round pick was selected to the Pro Football Focus 2022 NFL All-Rookie Team and chosen the Bears Rookie of the Year by The hard-hitting safety displayed his playmaking ability all year, registering 104 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, a team-leading 4.0 sacks, one interception, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Trevis Gipson

#99 DL

Height: 6-4Weight: 263 lbsCollege: Tulsa

Age: 25

With the Bears switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, Gipson moved from outside linebacker to defensive end, the position he played in college at Tulsa. Appearing in all 17 games with 10 starts, the 2020 fifth-round pick recorded 31 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, 3.0 sacks, a team-high 11 quarterback pressures and three pass breakups.

Kyler Gordon

#6 DB

Height: 6-0Weight: 200 lbsCollege: Washington

Age: 23

The Bears' top pick in the 2022 draft started all 14 games he played in, compiling 71 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, three interceptions, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Two of Gordon's interceptions came in the final three games of the season against two of the NFL's best quarterbacks in the Eagles' Jalen Hurts and the Bills' Josh Allen.

Elijah Hicks

#37 DB

Height: 5-11Weight: 200 lbsCollege: California

Age: 23

The 2022 seventh-round pick played in 15 games with two starts as a rookie, producing 20 tackles on defense and seven on special teams. Hicks contributed exclusively on special teams in his first nine NFL contests before playing 168 snaps on defense over the final six games. His two starts came against the Packers and Vikings.

Jaylon Johnson

#33 DB

Height: 6-0Weight: 196 lbsCollege: Utah

Age: 23

Often shadowing the opponent's top receiver, the 2020 second-round pick started all 11 games he played, generating 35 tackles and seven pass breakups. Johnson missed three games early in the season with a quad injury he sustained in practice and three contests late in the year with a broken finger.

Dominique Robinson

#91 DL

Height: 6-5Weight: 253 lbsCollege: Miami (Ohio)

Age: 24

A quarterback and receiver before switching to defensive end at Miami (Ohio), the 2022 fifth-round pick played in all 17 games as a rookie, registering 30 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two tackles-for-loss and two pass breakups.

Jack Sanborn

#57 LB

Height: 6-2Weight: 234 lbsCollege: Wisconsin

Age: 22

An undrafted rookie, Sanborn excelled after becoming a starter following the midseason trade of linebacker Roquan Smith to the Ravens. Before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in a Week 15 loss to the Eagles, the Chicago area native made six consecutive starts and recorded 59 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks and one fumble recovery.

Kindle Vildor

#22 DB

Height: 5-11Weight: 189 lbsCollege: Georgia Southern

Age: 25

The 2020 fifth-round pick appeared in 11 games with nine starts, compiling 34 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, five pass breakups and his first career interception, picking off the Vikings' Kirk Cousins in a Week 5 game in Minnesota.

Special teamsJosh Blackwell

#39 DB

Height: 5-11Weight: 180 lbsCollege: Duke

Age: 23

Blackwell emerged as a special-teams standout, producing a team-leading 11 tackles while playing at a Pro Bowl level, according to special teams coordinator Richard Hightower. Blackwell entered the NFL with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie. He was waived Aug. 30 as part of final cuts and claimed by the Bears the next day.

Trenton Gill

#16 P

Height: 6-4Weight: 219 lbsCollege: N.C. State

Age: 24

The 2022 seventh-round pick had a strong rookie season, posting a gross average of 46.0 yards on 66 punts and a 40.3-yard net average that was the third best in Bears history.

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